Jan

14

 The surf line up is a competitive arena requiring strength, endurance, and agility. Almost none of my contemporaries survived. I see them hanging out on the beach, drinking, overweight. I am one of the last survivor of my generation out there. Makalawaena Bob, at 73, is still surfing.

Disease at this stage of life is one of the main factors. A negative mental and moral attitude seems to correlate with disease among my acquaintances who have been struck down. There have been a large number of business failures on a large and small scale this past year. Survival is the name of the game. Survival requires fitness which is a combination of strength, endurance and agility. An imbalance reduces fitness. With age comes a reduction of physical and mental agility. With effort, strength can be maintained. The mental aspect requires avoiding bad attitude. It requires daily diligence to every detail: eating, sleeping, exercise, drinking. These are such simple things, but it's so hard to execute them. It is extremely difficult to maintain fitness, both physically and in the business world.

In trading this year, survival also was the name of the game. It required fitness of the mental sort. Strength and endurance to handle the awesome swings. Endurance to stay up the late nights. Agility to move quickly in 100 point ranges. The main thing was to survive. With so many of the big names going down, with those all around going down, and suffering massive losses, survival. How does one survive? Physically, be fit. In business, always be careful, always protect oneself. Many lost all due to failure to do so. Attend to detail. Avoid mental error and bad attitude and the dangers of hubris. Avoid the string of errors spiraling out of control ending in death. Competition and survival seem diametrically opposed, but in fact they are not. Sometimes, merely surviving wins. This was Croesus's dilemma.

Jeff Watson writes:

SurfOur surf line up is composed mainly of teenagers and 20 somethings who are pretty aggressive and competitive like surfers of that age group tend to be. The three surfers who are over 40 at my break rely on knowledge of the waves, experience, and physical conditioning to be able to compete in the young man's arena of our little circus. The parking lot is full of guys my age, sitting on the beds of their pick up's, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and talking story to whoever will listen. It is evident from the old wax jobs that their boards haven't been ridden in a long time. They claim that they will only go out when the waves are good, but somehow conditions are never good enough for them to go out and get wet. They sit there like deteriorating relics, gaining weight, polluting their lungs, ruining their livers, and reminiscing on how much better it was thirty years ago. Like middle aged armchair quarterbacks everywhere, they always have an opinion and never fail to critique of our waves. Sitting in that parking lot will never get them ready for the rare big swell that passes through. Meanwhile, our small geezer patrol is hitting every swell that's over knee high, having fun and staying healthy in our advanced age.

Russ Sears writes:

Runner2008 was finally the year that even at my best times an average collegiate runner could beat me. At the shorter races (5k-10k), a good high school kid would also. I've fought the good fight, I've kept the faith. I'm definitely not out of shape, nor sitting on my couch talking about the old days, drinking cheap swill, bragging like I could still do it if I could only find the time to train or if the perfect right wave came.

Many distance runners, run and train hard for life. But few of my contemporaries kept at it. You'll still see a few of the late 70s early 80s USA distance stars, make a speaking engagement tour to show-up at road race expos and some will even run. I believe Bill Rodgers may still have a few age records but the stars in the Masters divisions usually can beat them. Age and a few too many battles has finally taken that extra zip away.

I've had the privilege to train with several great runners over 40. I've had insights to their training, racing and personal life. They have in turn made me aware of how many of the great master runners have trained. Here are few insights that might apply to working with a tough market.

Often those that bloom to be the Masters champs are those that either took time off in their youth or never started serious training to begin until their 30s or late 20s (this is especially true with women).

I've also known runners that were clean up till their 40s start to lose their competitive edge and turn to banned drugs to get it back. The rules don't seem to matter once they see their youth and promise start to slip to age. But the thing was everybody knew what was happening. It was clear to those that watched they were using something. Their times would place them in the middle pack. Suddenly they would have a phenomenal race or races. One was not to be believed and they'd get caught in a drug test a few months later.

However, I know many runners that were great in their youth and suddenly, often on turning 40, would start to run again. They'll find and contact me, since they know I've kept trying, and expect in a few months to be setting new age records. I've yet to see one of these succeed.

With this insight you might think I would have done better after 40 than I did. On approaching and turning 40 I first tried running same amount and did not back down on workouts. I didn't heed the coaches warnings to those thinking they were invincible: "just because you could, doesn't mean you should". This placed me on the injured and sick list too much. So I've cut back to less miles.

A for the marathon and beyond however, where the race is often about survival on the edge of what the athlete is capable, the battle still goes to the experienced and mentally tough. Not that a good young marathoner couldn't still beat me, it's that few will. Even at the local no named races I expect to be beaten by some young well trained younger runner, but he must be well trained and give enough to last the whole race. Are they willing to grind it out, when things get really tough.

What gives the edge to the youth is their resilience. As HBR said: “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics and it’s true in the boardroom.” – Harvard Business Review, May 2002. Many aspects of resilience are internal and hard to detect. However, one outward clue to self resilience is sense of humor. Comedy is aimed at youth, many men simply become grumpy old lions. Do companies have a sense of humor, in these markets?


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